Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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Answering Writers’ Questions: Overseas Assets and Finding People

Posted by Writing PIs on March 21, 2010

Today we’re posting questions from writers about assets and finding people, and our answers.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Regarding PIs searching for assets.  What if these assets are set up in countries outside the US?  What if your client lives in the US, but the account is in Switzerland or the Isle of Man?  Actually, I thought tax-free accounts were supposed to be cracked down on by the IRS.  How could a wife find out if her husband was hiding money during a nasty divorce?  Can it be undetected without a bank number?  I don’t think those types of banks use regular name and account numbers like here, but I’m not sure.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: This question applies to finding overseas assets.  A lot of countries now participate in reporting offshore bank accounts.  To the best of our knowledge, Guernsey, England is still very private (i.e., not reporting offshore accounts), but in this case a U.S. citizen could hire a local U.K. attorney to open an account in Guernsey and act as an agent in that country.   Bahamas, once a popular place in reality and many fiction stories as a place to hide assets, is no longer such a financial haven–after the U.S. threatened them with trade restraints, they agreed to disclose information about bank accounts.  There are probably other countries/regions that are also private, but one would need to research that.

Oh, one more country that is private.  It’s a small country named Nevis (an island nation in the West Indies) that has extremely tight privacy laws.  Check out e-gold.com, which is located there.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Regarding Skips.  What if a person skips while out on bail and somehow manages to leave the country?  Could a family hire you to find them before the FBI does?  Of course, if you were hunting for a criminal, you would have to turn them in if you found them, wouldn’t you?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: We’ve been hired by families and attorneys to find people in other countries.  However, we’ve never tracked someone who had skipped out on bail (this is what bounty hunters, like Dog, are hired to do).  So if a bounty hunter is tracking someone who’s skipped bail and there’s indications this person is in another country, the bounty hunter would have to work closely with that country’s local and national enforcement, the U.S. Embassey, and any private individuals who also specialize in bail/skip recapture.  This is an extremely technical area, bound up in a mess of treaties concerning extradition, as well as that country’s local law and international law (including the Hague Convention).  Remember all the trouble Dog got into a few years ago (for those who might not know, Google Dog the Bounty Hunter and Mexico)?  In that scenario, one man’s bounty hunter was another man’s kidnapper.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Under a similar scenario:  Suppose a woman hired you to find a long lost love and you were able to locate him, but unbeknown to her, he had a criminal record and was wanted.  Are you obligated to tell her this information?  Are you obligated to turn him in?  I think this could make for a great book.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: We would tell her, and we would tell law enforcement.

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